A California lawmaker is calling on Golden State residents to think "think twice" before spending time and money in Florida after a jury's acquittal of neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman in the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.
Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), along with the California Legislative Black Caucus, announced plans Wednesday for a resolution calling for a boycott of Florida, which Holden said has a Stand Your Ground law that encourages vigilantism.
"Where were [Trayvon's] rights to stand his ground -- to move through his Florida community without being shot or killed?" asked Holden in a phone interview with The Huffington Post.
The calls for a Florida boycott by Holden and the Legislative Black Caucus add to a wave of anger that has grown since Zimmerman's acquittal Saturday. A day after the jury's verdict, singer Stevie Wonder told a crowd he wouldn't perform in Florida or any state with Stand Your Ground gun laws until they were repealed. Martin Luther King III suggested consumers boycott Florida orange juice.
A petition on the progressive site MoveOn.org calls for people to refrain from traveling to Florida until Stand Your Ground is repealed.
"Your state is not a safe place to vacation if your citizens are able to kill anyone they deem suspicious," says the petition statement. It has about 10,000 signatures.
If the boycott gains steam, it could be a big hit to Florida's economy. The Sunshine State had a record 89.3 million visitors in 2012, according Visit Florida, the state's official tourism marketing corporation. Florida's tourism industry employs 1.03 million residents. And oranges are such an important product for Florida that the state has its own Department of Citrus, a government agency in charge of marketing and regulating the industry.
Holden's non-binding resolution won't call for California to divest itself of business contracts or investments in Florida. Instead, the proposal is symbolic, aimed at individuals, organizations, churches and businesses that want to protest Florida's Stand Your Ground law, which allows lethal force in a confrontation -- even when a gun owner can safely retreat.
"The caucus thought it was important to engage the community in a positive way," said Holden, "and to allow the conversation to continue."
Holden, who has four sons in college, said Martin's killing hit him especially hard. Like other parents, Holden has been ruminating on the circumstances around Martin's death and imagining similar scenarios involving his children.
"They could find themselves visiting Florida or any other state and on their way back from the store, be confronted," Holden said. "I know how my kids goof off. They act like teenagers. If you're listening to your iPod and making your way down the street after having purchased a packet of Skittles and some iced tea, you shouldn't have to be fearful when you come home."
In addition to hugging his sons a little tighter this week, Holden said he and the Black Caucus want to make a legislative statement.
In a press release announcing the resolution, Holden said Zimmerman's acquittal was a "true nightmare scenario for every black parent in America, and a sad commentary on racial injustice in this country."
But critics of the boycott resolution have pointed out that California has a weaker version of Stand Your Ground -- not as a statute, like in Florida, but as legal instructions to a jury given during a criminal case that say a defendant doesn't have an obligation to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense. To that, Holden had this to say: "What I said about the Florida law is that there are elements of it that need to be changed. I didn't say the whole thing needs to be thrown out."
California's legislature is in summer recess and won't reconvene until Aug. 5. That's when Holden will finalize the proposal language, put it through a committee and offer it for a vote. He said he hopes the resolution will emerge as a joint resolution supported by both the state Senate and Assembly.
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